Sweden: Supreme Court Ruling Challenges Alcohol Monopoly

Sweden's Supreme Court has ruled today in favor of Danish online wine retailer Winefinder, allowing them to sell and deliver alcohol directly to Swedish households and businesses. This decision poses a challenge to Sweden's long-standing alcohol retail monopoly, which has been in place since 1955.

In 2020, Winefinder was banned from conducting business in Sweden by the Patent and Market Court after Systembolaget, the state-run alcohol company, sued the company for violating the Swedish alcohol and marketing law. However, two years later, the Patent and Market Appeal Court ruled in favor of Winefinder, and the Supreme Court has now upheld this decision.

Despite Sweden's exemption from EU legislation on free trade of goods, the Supreme Court deemed Winefinder's activities as a permitted form of private import and not a violation of the alcohol act. This ruling overturns a previous decision in a lower court instance, and Systembolaget cannot overrule the Supreme Court's decision.

While Winefinder's victory threatens the monopoly held by Systembolaget, Lena Hallengren of the Social Democratic Party argues for a change in legislation to address the potential growth of profit-driven actors in the alcohol market.

Systembolaget's chiefs jurist, Anna Domander, accepted the the Supreme Court's ruling and welcomed the fact that the court has now created clarity. "The outcome was not what we had hoped for, but we saw the need for clarity on the matter. The legal situation has been unclear," she said. However, she emphasized that Systembolaget still maintains its exclusive right to retail sales.

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